Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus on Monday criticized Mike Huckabee's controversial comments about women and birth control, saying Huckabee was wrong to talk about women's libidos.
Huckabee ignited a firestorm Thursday when he took on the GOP "War on Women" narrative in a speech at the RNC's winter meeting in Washington. "If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it," the former Arkansas governor said.
Priebus initially responded by saying he wasn't sure what Huckabee was talking about. Then, a day after the controversial speech, he urged Republicans to be "very conscious of the tone and choice of words" in communicating their policies.
NBC's Chuck Todd asked the RNC chair Monday morning if he was rebuking Huckabee's comments, to which Priebus said, "Sure. Yes, I was."
"And the reason is that, you know, you have to accept the political world we live in, in the sense that you cannot offer up words like libido -- wherever that came from -- you don't offer up these sorts of lobs and set up passes and serves that allow the Democrats to spike the ball," Priebus said on "The Daily Rundown."
"It's not where our party stands, it isn't really even what Mike Huckabee meant to say," he added. "I mean he had a pretty good message, and it was overshadowed by a choice of words that was just a little bit off, that's all."
It's no surprise that Priebus was quick to reject Huckabee's comments, which come at a time when Republicans are trying to make inroads with women and push back against the perception amplified in the 2012 election that they favor anti-women policies. Democrats seized on Huckabee's speech within a matter of minutes, using it to contend that nothing had changed about the GOP's outlook toward women, and noting that it was Huckabee who was effectively reducing women to sexual objects by bringing up their libidos.
Even former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), one of the most vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, said that while he agreed with Huckabee's broader point, he would have phrased it differently.
"Mike speaks off the cuff, as some of us are known to do, and probably would choose different words to communicate that message," Santorum said on CNN Thursday.
Republican lawmakers and candidates have reportedly received training from the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee on how to improve their communication with women.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters in December that the goal of such training was to try and get Republicans "to be a little more sensitive."